Residential Environment and Types of Childhood
Humanities and Social Sciences
Volume 3, Issue 5, September 2015, Pages: 159-168
Received: Jul. 2, 2015; Accepted: Jul. 9, 2015; Published: Jul. 25, 2015
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Baldo Blinkert, Institut für Soziologie, Albert Ludwigs Universität, ('Sociology Institute, Albert Ludwigs University'), Freiburg, Germany
Ellen Weaver, Freiburger Institut für angewandte Sozialwissenschaft, (FIFAS)('Freiburg Institute for Applied Sociology'), Freiburg, Germany
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Children who are not enabled to play freely may suffer limitations in their physical, social and cognitive development. There is a danger that widespread play deprivation may lead to future generations of adults lacking essential social and personal skills. Recent German research identifies opportunities for children aged between 5 and 9 to begin experiencing independence as essential for healthy child development, and distinguishes between autonomous and heteronomous forms of childhood. The amount of time that children in this age group play outside without adult supervision was investigated and found to correlate with the quality of children's residential environments. The quality of the 'action space' available to children correlates with the economic and cultural resources of their families, so that children from socially and materially deprived homes have significantly less opportunity to develop their autonomy, through the 'latent curriculum' of free play, than children from more affluent homes: 'street childhood' has become a sign of wealth rather than poverty. Conventional playgrounds with limited, fixed installations lack scope for imaginative or creative play and fail to meet the requirements of quality play space for children. In contrast, action spaces designed with local children and which allow for creative play with natural materials are 50% cheaper to build than standard playgrounds. The need is asserted for children's policy to be embedded in housing, public space, traffic and urban design decisions, in order for the right to play to be effectively implemented. These developments are contrasted with the prevailing culture and controversies on child safety and freedom in the USA, and compared to current trends and debates in the UK on the changing nature of childhood, restricted play opportunities and child safety. The impact of UK law is considered as a key factor contributing to fear of allowing children to experience risk in play. Further research is proposed to investigate the potential for urban design to enable healthier city childhoods, the relevance of common law as distinct from civil law systems in impairing exercise of the right to play, and the impact of cultural patterns on children's opportunities to develop autonomy.
Children, Autonomous Childhood, Residential Environment, Outdoor Play, Risk, Law, Germany, UK
To cite this article
Baldo Blinkert, Ellen Weaver, Residential Environment and Types of Childhood, Humanities and Social Sciences. Vol. 3, No. 5, 2015, pp. 159-168. doi: 10.11648/j.hss.20150305.11
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